President Donald Trump (left) has criticised Robert Mueller's (right) investigation as a "witch hunt"

Trump-Russia: Special counsel Robert Mueller delivers report

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has submitted his long-awaited report on alleged collusion between Russia and President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

The Attorney General William Barr will now summarise the report and decide how much to share with Congress.

A justice department official said Mr Mueller’s report did not recommend any further indictments.

The special counsel has already charged six former Trump aides and dozens of Russians.

Mr Barr told congressional leaders in a letter that he anticipated being able to inform them of the report’s key findings over the weekend.

The report is intended to explain any prosecutorial decisions the special counsel has made in the 22 months since his appointment by deputy US Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Mr Trump and other Republicans have repeatedly condemned the probe as a “witch hunt”.

Mueller is done… this is what we know

In his letter to Congress’ judiciary committee leaders – Senators Lindsey Graham and Dianne Feinstein and Congressmen Jerrold Nadler and Doug Collins – Mr Barr confirmed there were no instances during the investigation where the Department of Justice had interfered with Mr Mueller’s work.

Mr Barr said he will now consult with Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein – who managed the inquiry prior to Mr Barr’s appointment – and Mr Mueller “to determine what other information from the report can be released to Congress and the public”.

“I remain committed to as much transparency as possible, and I will keep you informed as to the status of my review.”

Over the last 22 months, the special counsel has revealed how Russian agents and operatives allegedly obtained information about US elections to initiate a campaign to influence Americans, fund political activities in the US and hack emails of top Democrats to undermine Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Mr Mueller was also investigating whether Mr Trump obstructed justice with his firing of FBI director James Comey, or by trying to mislead or end the inquiry.

Mr Trump has repeatedly said there was “no collusion” with Russia and “no obstruction”.

The president never agreed to an interview with Mr Mueller’s team during the inquiry, but his lawyers submitted written answers to questions after months of negotiating terms.

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Out with a letter, not a bang?

Is this how the Mueller investigation ends? Not with a bang, but with a letter?

The details of the final report have yet to be disclosed, but because Attorney General Barr has said there were no instances where he or his predecessors overrode the special counsel’s prosecutorial decisions – and no new indictments have been announced – it seems possible that what we have seen with the criminal portion of the probe is what we’re going to get.

There may still be politically damaging revelations to come, but Donald Trump has shrugged off many a political threat in his rise to the White House.

Without a criminal caseload directly related to “collusion” by members of the Trump campaign – the central thrust of the investigation – it seems certain the president and his White House surrogates will shout from the hilltops that their side has been exonerated.

This is far from the end of legal jeopardy for the president, his family, his aides and his business empire, of course.

Investigations at both the state and federal level into various financial and campaign finance violations grind on, not to mention the aggressive oversight coming down the pipe from the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives.

After today’s developments, however, the president will continue to claim he is the victim of an unfounded “witch hunt”.

His political adversaries, who were hoping for a courtroom coup de grace, will be left searching for a new silver bullet.

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What’s the reaction?

How US networks reacted to Mueller news

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said in a statement: “The next steps are up to Attorney General Barr and we look forward to the process taking its course. The White House has not received or been briefed on the Special Counsel’s report.”

Mr Trump’s personal lawyers Rudy Giuliani and Jay Sekulow echoed a similar sentiment, saying they were “pleased” the report had been delivered and trust Mr Barr to “determine the appropriate next steps”.

Mr Nadler, a New York Democrat, acknowledged the investigation had concluded on Twitter, saying: “We look forward to getting the full Mueller report and related materials.”

Earlier this month, the House of Representatives voted unanimously for a resolution demanding the Department of Justice to release the full report to the public, signalling support within both parties to find out whether Mr Mueller discovered any criminal wrongdoing.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer also called for transparency in a joint statement, adding that the White House “must not be allowed to interfere”.

“The Special Counsel’s investigation focused on questions that go to the integrity of our democracy itself: whether foreign powers corruptly interfered in our elections, and whether unlawful means were used to hinder that investigation. The American people have a right to the truth.”

Mr Graham, a South Carolina Republican and vocal Trump supporter, said he “always believed it was important that Mr Mueller be allowed to do his job without interference, and that has been accomplished”.

What comes next?

Exactly what happens next is really in Mr Barr’s hands.

Legally, the attorney general is under no obligation to release the report publicly, and his copy to Congress could contain redactions – but during his confirmation hearings before senators, he vowed to release as much as he could.

And if he does provide Congress with the full details, members could leak the report to the public on their own.

With the 2020 presidential elections looming, candidates are expected to campaign with promises of making the full report public. Many of the Democratic hopefuls – Beto O’Rourke, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, Kirsten Gillibrand, Julian Castro – have been quick to call for it.

The House of Representatives will also continue to investigate the administration, and they could ask Mr Mueller to testify, or demand Mr Barr to provide relevant materials.

Venezuela crisis: the view from Yare:

Humanitarian aid meant for Venezuelans has been arriving in US military planes on the Colombian border. President Nicolas Maduro denies there’s a humanitarian crisis, saying the relief is a cover for a US invasion — and his troops will not let it through. But Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaido has called for crowds to converge on the border to collect the aid. The BBC’s International correspondent Orla Guerin reports from Yare where the lack of food and medicines are claiming lives.

Domestic maids and other women in India's informal sectors are particularly vulnerable

#MeToo” The women left behind in India:

India’s #MeToo campaign has taken off in fits and starts but it has still not touched the lives of millions of poor, vulnerable women who work in informal jobs, writes professor Sreeparna Chattopadhyay.

Meena (her name has been changed on request) is a 45-year-old domestic worker in the southern city of Bangalore. And she is a survivor of sexual harassment in the workplace.

She cooks and cleans in three different homes, earning around 6,000 rupees ($84; $64) a month. She used to earn nearly three times as much. But she lost her job in several homes after she accused one of her employers of sexually harassing her.

Meena said the harassment started after she borrowed 100,000 rupees for her older daughter’s wedding from a couple in their early 70s. She had been working in their house for three years by then.

She alleged the man would initially try and brush past her while she was sweeping or mopping the floor. Sometimes, she said, he would try and touch her casually or even tug on her sari.

Scattered surveys of female workers in different parts of the country tell an incomplete but important story

His wife, Meena said, was often asleep and didn’t seem to know about her husband’s inappropriate behaviour.

Meena said she tried to resist his advances.

But one evening his wife locked herself in the bedroom and went to sleep. That day, she alleged, he grabbed her and tried to pull her onto the sofa.

Despite his age he was strong she said, but fortunately not stronger than her. She managed to push him away, and flee the house never to return.

Meena did not file a police complaint because she assumed no-one would believe her. But then the couple started pressurising her to return the money she had borrowed, failing which they wanted her to return to work to pay off her debt. At first, they threatened her over the phone. Then, she alleged, they sent men to her home to intimidate her.

The wife also blamed her for dressing “provocatively” and “tempting” her husband.

Given their economic and social vulnerability, informal workers are less likely to report offences against them

Meena said she was scared, depressed and did not know what to do. She could not pay off her debt in full and returning to work in their home was not an option.

In one of the other houses that she worked in, she felt comfortable enough to share her experience. This employer put her in touch with a domestic workers’ union and another organisation that works on violence against women in Bangalore.

The union representative spoke to the elderly couple and threatened police action if they did not stop harassing Meena.

Meena had some money saved and decided to use it to pay off as much of the debt as she could.

Domestic workers protested in Mumbai against actor Shiney Ahuja, who was allegedly raped his 18-year-old maid.
Domestic workers’ groups have been protesting for years for more benefits

Her tribulations ended but she still struggles. Her daughter suffers from cerebral palsy and needs constant care, so she spends a significant portion of her savings taking her to school every day because she can’t walk by herself. She is entitled to a disability allowance from the government but the payments are not regular.

The incident also scarred Meena – she had nightmares, was afraid to take a job near the home of her previous employers and experienced shame and guilt.

Informal workers like Meena – women employed as domestic workers, construction labour, garment workers and vendors – make up 94% of India’s female workforce. But their experiences of sexual harassment or assault rarely come to light.

And data is also hard to come by – scattered surveys of female workers in different parts of the country tell an incomplete but important story.

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Read more about the #MeToo movement in India

2012 study by Oxfam of formal and informal workers in eight Indian cities showed that 17% of women were sexually harassed at work – the most vulnerable being female labourers (29%) and domestic workers (23%).

survey of domestic workers in 2018 in and around India’s capital, Delhi, found that 29% of them were sexually harassed at work.

These figures are low compared to studies from the formal sector where rates of reported harassment range from 88% in the BPO(Business Process Outsourcing) sector to 57% in the health sector.

But this is because given their economic and social vulnerability, informal workers are less likely to report offences. Even if they do, these cases may never lead to justice for the victims because they may be eventually withdrawn fearing reprisals.

Tanushree Dutta says the incident forced her to leave acting
Tanushree Dutta says the incident forced her to leave acting

There have been a few cases that have grabbed national attention.

In 2017 for instance, domestic workers and their families stormed a posh apartment complex in Delhi alleging that a domestic worker had been beaten up by her employers; in 2011, a Bollywood actor was convicted for raping his maid.

But these examples are few and far between.

The #MeToo movement in India, which was preceded by LoSha a crowd sourced list of Indian male academics who allegedly harassed students or colleagues  has named several high-profile figures, including filmmakers, actors, artists and journalists.

But the face of #MeToo – both in India and globally – has been an urban, educated, articulate and privileged woman; the experiences of marginalised women are notably absent.

While some of the more critical voices have pointed to the fact that Dalit (formerly known as untouchables) women and poor women have been left out of this movement, these voices have remained on the fringe.

Bhanwari Devi in the centre
Bhanwari Devi (centre) was raped by upper caste men in 1992

This is ironic because it was the gang rape of a Dalit development worker, Bhanwari Devi, in Rajasthan state that led to India’s first law against sexual harassment at the workplace.

India’s sexual harassment laws mandate that in the absence of organisations, a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) headed by a district magistrate should address these complaints. But most cities or districts have no such committees.

The #MeToo movement in India has several supporters with social, economic and cultural capital and has now found a voice in mainstream media. But we are yet to see them aligning closely with informal workers’ rights groups.

It is time for us to move from #MeToo to #UsAll.

Sreeparna Chattopadhyay is a senior research scientist the the Public Heath Foundation of India.

One of the chimps ventured a bit further than the others

Belfast Zoo visitor ‘shocked’ by chimpanzee approach,”:

A mother of three has described her shock at coming across a chimpanzee outside its enclosure at Belfast Zoo.

Chantal Baxter, from Larne, said “one of the big chimpanzees just appeared from behind a bush”.

Footage posted on social media shows a chimpanzee on a path with members of the public, with several others remaining on the enclosure wall.

Belfast Zoo said the chimpanzees made an improvised ladder from a large tree branch propped up against a wall.

This is the second escape attempt by animals at Belfast Zoo in as many months.

In January, a red panda which escaped the zoo was found in a garden in Newtownabbey.

Mrs Baxter said she and her family were heading towards the zoo exit on Saturday afternoon when they met a young couple who said the chimpanzees had escaped.

When the chimpanzee showed up near them, she added, her youngest child shouted.

“I think she scared it and it did sort of make its way back up the hill,” she said.

Chimpanzee at Belfast Zoo on public path
One chimpanzee went for a bit of a wander…

“But there were four of them that we could see were out. There was one on the path and there were three of them sitting on the wall.

“We were a bit shocked, obviously, being approached by this big chimpanzee. The kids were shocked.

“I suppose now it’s easy to think it was funny but it was quite dangerous.”

‘Quite cowardly’

Belfast City Council, which runs the zoo, said one chimpanzee “briefly” left its enclosure.

“Zookeepers were present as the chimpanzee quickly returned from an adjacent wall to the rest of the group inside the enclosure,” a spokeswoman said.

“Belfast Zoo would like to thank members of the public who helped raise the alarm as zookeepers moved in to return the animal to its enclosure.”

Chantal Baxter
… while the others remained on the wall

The zoo’s Alan Cairns said: “We think what has happened is that the trees in their enclosure have been weakened by the storms and so they’ve been able to break them and use them as a ladder to get out.

He said the zoo’s chimps were “quite cowardly” so went back into their enclosure themselves during the incident.

When the keepers arrived one was on the wall of the enclosure and none were out of it, he added.

The zoo’s Alan Cairns said the “intelligent” primates “got back in themselves”

“They’re intelligent primates and know they’re not supposed to be out of their enclosure, so got back in themselves,” he said.

“We like things to be natural in their enclosure, to have trees in it, but we will review it.

“We may have to remove the trees or make them a smaller level, although we don’t want to do that.”

The chimpanzees were locked into their inner enclosure afterwards.

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Chimp facts

  • Chimpanzees are one of four types of “great ape” – the others being bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans
  • Humans and chimpanzees share 95% to 98% of the same DNA
  • Chimpanzees walk on all fours and have longer arms than legs
  • Chimpanzees sometimes hunt and eat small mammals such as bushbuck or monkeys
  • They also eat fruit, nuts, seeds, blossoms, leaves, and many kinds of insects
  • A full-grown chimpanzee has five or six times the strength of a human being

Source: Jane Goodall Institute UK

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Gas wars: The problem with Nord Stream 2

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

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

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

Football fans at Liverpool's home match against Leicester have been told to expect delays

M62 closed after man seriously hurt in collision

Football fans at Liverpool’s home match against Leicester have been told to expect delays

Police have alerted motorists after the M62 was closed in both directions following a serious collision.

A man was taken to hospital with “major trauma injuries” after the incident on the motorway in Merseyside, North West Ambulance Service said.

The crash happened between junction 7 (A57) and 8 (A574). North West Motorway Police attended the scene at about 19:48 GMT.

Motorists have been urged by officers to avoid the area.

A statement from police on Twitter said both carriageways “are still closed due to police investigation and will remain closed for foreseeable future please avoid area and find alternative route.”

Highways England warned football fans at Liverpool’s home match against Leicester, which kicked off at 19:45 GMT, to expect delays.

It said in a tweet that closures between junction 7 for Warrington A57 and junction 8 for Burtonwood A574 are in place.

“Likely to be in place for some time, be aware if leaving LFC vs LCFC,” the tweet said.

The injured man suffered “a head injury, leg injuries and chest injuries”, a spokeswoman for the ambulance service said.

She said two ambulances, an advanced paramedic and a rapid response vehicle attended the scene.

Bohemian Rhapsody excluded from Glaad LGBT awards over Bryan Singer allegations

By emmanuel Justices

Bohemian Rhapsody has been removed as a nominee for a major LGBT award show, following new accusations of sexual assault against director Bryan Singer.

The allegations were the result of a year-long investigation by US magazine The Atlantic, and included claims that the director had sex with underage men.

He denies the allegations, saying they are a “homophobic slur” against him.

The film stars Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury and Gwilym Lee as Brian May

But Glaad said it would not honour his latest film, saying “survivors of sexual assault should be put first”.

Singer, whose previous credits include The Usual Suspects and X-Men, was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody three weeks before filming ended, amid reports of erratic behaviour and personality clashes with the star, Rami Malek.

Bryan Singer
Singer oversaw the launch of the X-Men franchise, which kick-started the boom in superhero movies

British director Dexter Fletcher was brought in to complete the project, but in accordance with Director’s Guild rules, Singer’s name remained on the film’s credits.

Glaad said in a statement: “This week’s story in The Atlantic documenting unspeakable harms endured by young men and teenage boys brought to light a reality that cannot be ignored or even tacitly rewarded.

“Singer’s response to The Atlantic story wrongfully used ‘homophobia’ to deflect from sexual assault allegations and Glaad urges the media and the industry at large to not gloss over the fact that survivors of sexual assault should be put first.”

Glaad is a media monitoring organisation which hands out awards each year to recognise outstanding representations of the LGBT community in the media.

‘Innocent until proven otherwise’

It described the decision to remove Bohemian Rhapsody as a “difficult” one, adding: “The legacy of Freddy Mercury deserves so much more than to be tainted in this way”.

The film was nominated for five Oscars earlier this week, although Singer failed to make the best director shortlist.

The 53-year-old was dropped by his agency last year, but was recently hired to direct an adaptation of the cult comic Red Sonja.

Producers have confirmed he will keep the job despite the latest allegations.

“The over $800m Bohemian Rhapsody has grossed… is testament to his remarkable vision and acumen,” said Millennium Films’ boss Avi Lerner told The Hollywood Reporter.

“I know the difference between agenda-driven fake news and reality, and I am very comfortable with this decision. In America people are innocent until proven otherwise.”

Millennium Films was itself hit with allegations of sexual harassment and gender bias, with Lerner accused of making disparaging remarks towards female employees.

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‘El Chapo’ trial: Drug lord tortured and murdered rivals, says witness

By emmanuel Justices

Mexican drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán personally tortured and murdered his rivals, his former bodyguard has said at a trial in New York.

In the most gruesome testimony to date, Isaias Valdez Rios described seeing “El Chapo” brutally beat at least three men before shooting them.

El Chapo” stared calmly ahead in court during Thursday’s testimony

Guzmán, 61, faces 17 charges including trafficking and money laundering, and could be jailed for life.

The ex-boss of the Sinaloa cartel was held in 2016 after escaping from jail.

He used a tunnel to leave the prison in Mexico but was arrested five months later.

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El Chapo” stared impassively in court during Thursday’s testimony by his ex-bodyguard, correspondents say.


What did the bodyguard say?

Mr Valdez Rios told the court he had personally witnessed “El Chapo” murder three members of rival drug cartels.

In one incident, he said two people originally from Sinaloa who had joined the rival Los Zetas cartel were deemed traitors and rounded up by Guzmán’s hitmen.

For more than three hours the drug lord brutally beat them, the witness said.

“They were completely like rag dolls – their bones were totally broken. They could not move. And Joaquin was still hitting them with the branch and his weapon too,” Mr Valdez Rios said.

The two men were later driven to an area where they could see a large bonfire.

There, the jury was told, “El Chapo” cursed each one before shooting them in the head with his rifle.

The leader of the Sinaloa cartel ordered that they be thrown in the bonfire, telling his men that he did not want any bones to remain, the former bodyguard said.

This handout picture released by the Mexican interior ministry shows Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán (centre) escorted by Mexican police officers before his extradition to the US. Photo: January 2017
Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán was extradited to the US by the Mexican authorities in 2017

The third man murdered by “El Chapo” was a member of the Arellano Felix cartel.

“He had burns made with an iron on his back, his shirt was stuck to his skin. He had burns made with a car lighter all over his body. His feet were burned,” the witness said.

The man was then locked in a wooden structure for days. It was only then that the man was brought blindfolded with his hands and legs tied to a graveyard.

“El Chapo” started to interrogate him, and while he was responding, shot him with his handgun.

The man was still gasping for air – but he was dumped in a hole and buried alive, Mr Valdez Rios said.

Mr Valdez Rios, 39, has been held in a US jail since his arrest in 2014.

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Londonderry's Peace Bridge is one of the major projects in Northern Ireland that EU funding helped to build

Brexit: PM reassures DUP on peace funding

By emmanuel Justices

The government will remain committed to funding peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland regardless of Brexit, the prime minister has said.

Theresa May made the pledge in a letter to “reassure” the DUP.It comes amidst strains in the relationship over the border backstop The DUP responded angrily when  the Northern Ireland secretary said guaranteeing future peace funding could be difficult if Mrs May’s EU withdrawal agreement was voted down by MPs.

The party, and some Conservative MPs, are opposed to the backstop proposal for the border after Brexit in part because it would mean Northern Ireland being treated differently from the rest of the UK.

DUP-Conservative confidence and supply agreement
The DUP signed an agreement to prop up the Conservative government in June 2017, but there have been tensions in the relationship over Brexit

Mrs May is set to outline her next plans on how to take forward the Brexit process in the House of Commons on 29 January.

A wide range of proposals have been mooted by MPs, including making amendments to the backstop – an option rejected by the Irish government – or setting aside a full six days in Parliament before the March deadline to decide on a way forward.

Brexit delay ‘likely’

However, the former chancellor George Osborne and shadow chancellor John McDonnell have both said 

delaying Brexit is now the “likely” option. Mr Obsorne told the BBC: “At least that gives some space to explore whether there is an alternative deal on the table – I doubt there is but it’s worth exploring – or indeed whether we need to resolve this through a referendum.”

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

Earlier in January, the UK announced about £300m for future peace projects.

The government funding will be given to Peace Plus “as part of its unwavering commitment to uphold the hard-won peace in Northern Ireland after Brexit”.

That funding followed about £100m already earmarked by the EU

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley warned that without the legal mechanism provided by the EU withdrawal agreement, providing the cash could prove very difficult.

‘Unequivocal commitment’

The DUP raised the matter with the prime minister, who has now reassured them in writing that she remains “personally strongly committed” to the peace funding.

She referred to it as an unequivocal commitment made in the withdrawal agreement and added that the UK remained committed “whatever the outcome of Brexit”.

In a letter to DUP leader Arlene Foster and her deputy Nigel Dodds, dated Monday 21 January, the prime minister wrote: “In relation to a specific issue you raised of PEACE funding, I want to reassure you that I remain personally strongly committed to this and the government has emphasised its importance at every stage.

“In the event of no deal, both the UK and the EU have categorically committed to protect funding for current programmes through to 2020, as you rightly say in your letter.

“I can also reassure you that whatever the outcome of Brexit, the UK will remain committed to contributing financially to support peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.”

Karen Bradley
Karen Bradley said funding could be “very difficult” without an EU withdrawal deal

Mrs Foster thanked Mrs May for her clarification, but repeated her party’s criticism of the Northern Ireland secretary, describing Mrs Bradley’s earlier comments casting doubt on the funding as foolish and irresponsible.

“It lays to rest the comments made by the secretary of state that there may be some doubt about the legal basis on which it could be delivered,” Mrs Foster said.

“Such comments were not only foolish, but were particularly irresponsible given the nature of the groups who are in receipt of this funding.

“There is nothing wrong with a robust debate on the facts, but resorting to such scaremongering is not just wrong but is also counterproductive.”

What is Peace Plus?

The new scheme is set to replace the current Peace scheme, which has been in operation since 1995, next year.

It applies to Northern Ireland and the border counties of the Republic of Ireland – Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, Monaghan and Louth.

Currently, Peace IV is operating, which focuses on children and young people, shared education, shared spaces and positive local relations.

It is funded by the UK, Ireland and the EU.

The programme as a whole has helped fund developments like the Peace Bridge in Londonderry and numerous projects supporting victims and survivors, children, business and regeneration.

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The alert at Southway is the second in the Creggan area of the city

Londonderry bombing: Third alert follows weekend attack

By Emmanuel Justices

The moment the bomb exploded on Saturday

Three separate security alerts are under way in Londonderry – 48 hours after a bomb exploded in the city.

The area around the courthouse in Bishop Street has now reopened following an explosion in a car on Saturday night.

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Police said four out of five men arrested in connection with the attack have been released unconditionally.

A 50-year-old man arrested earlier on Monday remains in police custody.

car being removed from scene of derry bomb
The remains of the bombed-out car are removed from Bishop Street on Monday night

The PSNI said Saturday’s attack may have been carried out by the New IRA, a dissident republican group.

Brexit: Ministers plead with MPs to back Theresa May’s deal

On Monday, the Army was called to two security alerts in the city involving reported hijackings.

Army bomb disposal officers carried out a controlled explosion in Creggan’s Circular Road after a vehicle was hijacked by three masked men at 11:30 GMT on Monday.

This House stands with Northern Ireland’

The second alert on Southway, also in Creggan, followed reports of a vehicle being hijacked by four masked men at 13:45 GMT.

Security cordons at the scene of both alerts have been reduced in the area to allow some residents who had been moved from their homes to return.

PSNI Supt Gordon McCalmont said the security alerts in Creggan “means even more disruption for the local community.”

Abandoned lorry on Northland Road in derry
A number of residents have been moved from their homes as police deal with an abandoned vehicle on the Northland Road

In a third incident, the police are responding to a report of an abandoned lorry on the Northland Road close to the Glenbank Road junction.

A number of residents have been moved from their homes. A nearby community centre has been opened to people who have been affected.

SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan said the area was largely populated by older people.

“When you see frail pensioners in their late 80s and 90s being forced to leave their homes in their dressing gowns, it really is despicable.

“There is a huge sense of anxiety right across the city, and a huge sense of anger right across the city and understandably so,” he said.

What is the New IRA?

  • The New IRA was formed in 2012 after a number of dissident republican organisations said they were unifying under one leadership
  • It is believed to be the largest dissident republican organisation
  • The group is believed to have been responsible for a number of attacks since its formation, including the murders of prison officers David Black and Adrian Ismay.

Mr Durkan added: “This is not serving any purpose, it’s not furthering any cause, and all it’s doing is causing disruption and destruction on our city.”

In a post on the PSNI Foyle Facebook page, police also confirmed “there has been an attempted hijacking of a local bus service” in the Galliagh area of the city”.

Saturday’s bomb exploded outside the city’s courthouse on Bishop Street shortly after a pizza delivery vehicle was hijacked at gun point.

A CCTV clip posted on Twitter by police showed a group of seven young people walking past the vehicle shortly before the blast.

A timeline of events leading up to the explosion in Derry

Addressing MPs in the Commons on Monday afternoon, Prime Minister Theresa May said: “This house stands together with the people of Northern Ireland in ensuring that we never go back to the violence and terror of the past.”

Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley told MPs those behind the attack “will never succeed”.

“Londonderry is a city that has thrived since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement 20 years ago – everyone can see that – and one that will continue to grow and develop despite the actions of those who seek to sow discord and division,” she said.

police cordon at southway in derry
The alert at Southway is the second in the Creggan area of the city

DUP leader Arlene Foster tweeted that the PSNI “needs our full support to remove those responsible from our streets”.

Sinn Féin councillor Kevin Campbell said there can be “no justification for this type of reckless activity”.

“Those responsible for this disruption have shown complete disregard for the people of Creggan, particularly elderly people who live in this area,” he said.

Houses were evacuated in the Creggan area

Courthouse closed

At the courthouse in Derry, scheduled jury trials have been put off until Wednesday.

Cases listed to be heard in the magistrate’s courts were being held in Strabane, with some other hearings switching to Coleraine.

Forensic officer at the scene of the explosion
A forensic officer examines the remains of the vehicle following Saturday night’s explosion

Driver ‘threatened and intimidated’

PSNI Supt Gordon McCalmont told BBC Radio Foyle the police were trying to get the city back to normal and show the attack had “little or no long-term impact”.

He said the PSNI was “lucky we are not talking about loss of life”.

Supt McCalmont also said the pizza delivery driver whose vehicle was hijacked and used in Saturday’s bombing “had to go through the drama of having a firearm put to his head”.

“He was threatened and intimidated. It would be fair to say he was asked not to raise the alarm.”

He added: “These groupings obviously want us to respond. We will be very balanced. This threat has always been in this city.

“My sense is that this is not because of Brexit.”

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Ant and Dec were filmed entering a rear entrance of the London Palladium

Ant and Dec reunite to film Britain’s Got Talent auditions

By mr ben rory

Ant and Dec have posted a picture of themselves on their first day working together for almost a year.

The picture seemed to have been taken in a car en route to the London Palladium, where the pair are hosting auditions for Britain’s Got Talent.

“Audition day 1. The boys are back in town!” reads the accompanying message.

It is Ant McPartlin’s first day on the job since his arrest and conviction for drink driving last spring, after which he took time off to go to rehab.

He and Declan Donnelly were seen entering a rear entrance of the theatre on Friday. They briefly posed for photos but did not speak to waiting journalists.

Ant, 43, was involved in a three-car collision in south-west London on 18 March last year.

He was later fined £86,000 and given a 20-month driving ban after pleading guilty to drink driving.

Last August, Ant said his recovery was going “very well” and that he was looking forward to getting back to work “in the New Year”.

Dec subsequently presented I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here! with Holly Willoughby by his side.

On Friday, Willoughby greeted the pair’s picturewith a celebratory “Woooohooooo!!!” and three applause emojis.

Viewers will see Ant and Dec reunited on screen later this year when Britain’s Got Talent returns to ITV.

But they will have longer to wait for Ant and Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway, which will not return to the channel until 2020.

Sex Education, Bird Box and You have been a big success for Netflix

What’s behind the success of Netflix’s latest releases?

By mr ben rory

If you’ve spent the last few weeks binge-watching endless hours of TV (and finishing off leftover Christmas Twiglets) then you’re in very good company.

On Thursday, Netflix published the figures for some of their biggest recent releases – Sex Education, You and Bird Box.

And those numbers were pretty impressive, with the two series on course to be watched by 40 million accounts by the end of the month.

Bird Box, which features Oscar-winning actress Sandra Bullock as the lead, has already passed more than 80 million views.

Going viral on social media

You has been a huge success on Netflix

You, which is based on Caroline Kepnes’ best-selling novel of the same name, was initially made for the Lifetime Network in the US, but only averaged about 611,000 viewers.

Buzzfeed’s TV editor Scott Bryan tells the BBC the combination of “Netflix’s international appeal and social media influence” helped spread You a lot further than the Lifetime Network could.

“If you’d have told me about You six months ago, then I wouldn’t have known where to find it, but with Netflix’s good marketing and social media, I could,” he says.

Bird Box
This picture of Sandra Bullock turned into a viral meme on Twitter

Bird Box also enjoyed similar social media success, with its star-studded cast of Sandra Bullock and Sarah Paulson and thrilling plot drawing in viewers.

TV critic Emma Bullimore references the “Bird Box memes and viral social media campaign” that flooded Twitter over Christmas.

“Bird Box isn’t Citizen Kane, but it has incredible talent and is based on an intriguing concept,” she says.

“I saw the blindfold pictures all over Twitter so thought ‘let me check this out’.”

Sex Education was late to the party with its January release date, but it too is set to reach 40 million viewers by the end of the month.

The show follows a British sixth-form student, who opens up a sex therapy clinic to help his clueless classmates. It’s resonated with many of Netflix’s younger subscribers, whilst some of its wittiest lines have become popular memes on Twitter.

“With Sex Education, British comedy has always had international appeal and that has been a driver for this series, and the fact there aren’t many shows like it at the moment,” Bryan explains.

“Also it’s got Gillian Anderson in it and a universal youthful appeal – I’ve seen it shared so many times on social media.

“Plus it’s well-written, thought through and really inclusive on LGBT representation and serious subjects,” he adds.

The Christmas effect

Sex Education
Asa Butterfield and Gillian Anderson in Sex Education

Another important factor is the time of year – these releases all came out in late December and early January.

Bryan tells the BBC: “Christmas is when people start a lot of shows and catch up”, and adds that these releases really capitalised on that.

“For example, Netflix released Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch just after Christmas and people were watching it with their families.”

Bullimore also thinks downtime has played a part in impressive viewing figures.

“People have a lot of time over Christmas and want to find something new to binge watch, so bored Netflix subscribers want to find something to get obsessed with,” she tells the BBC.

“You is a thriller and it grabs you and forces to watch the next episode.”

Why has Netflix released these figures?

Sandra Bullock
Sandra Bullock’s character learns the significance of birds in Bird Box

At the end of December, Netflix tweeted that more than 45 million Netflix accounts had watched Bird Box – the best first week ever for a film on the service.

This was the first time that we were given any indication of how shows and films are received on the network, and Netflix were clearly proud of these figures.

“I think it’s a bit of publicity to further their own advantage,” says Bullimore.

“They’re really interested in their industry status, on getting Emmys and being involved with the big players so they get Hollywood stars on the network.”

“[Releasing these figures] shows the global power Netflix has,” says Bryan.

“They make shows that can be watched in 195 countries at the same time and this is something rivals can’t do.”

Sex Education
Emma Mackey and Asa Butterfield are two of the stars of Sex Education

Bryan thinks that while these figures appear impressive, it’s difficult to really measure their relevancy.

“What I’m trying to get clarity on is what counts as a viewer. In a shareholder letter yesterday they counted a viewer as watching 70% of one episode; you don’t see who drops off [and doesn’t watch the rest of series].

“But if you looked at BBC figures for Killing Eve and Bodyguard you could see how many people were watching each episode.”

Bullimore adds: “Netflix’s viewing figures have always been shrouded in mystery, they won’t tell us how many people are watching but the rest of the TV industry relies so heavily on these figures.

“Now suddenly after saying no, they’re very willing to, but they are calculated in a different way, therefore a straight comparison is very difficult.”

But Hollywood Reporter said Netflix’s content chief Ted Sarandos said the decision beind revealing some of its viewing figures was to share “cultural metrics”.

He added that in his opinion, what was important was being “in the zeitgeist”, adding Netflix will “ramp up” future information on viewing figures.

Ivanka Trump to help select candidate to lead World Bank: White House official

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not public, dismissed a report in the Financial Times that floated Ivanka’s name as a possible candidate and was repeated by several other media outlets over the weekend.

Ivanka Trump,Trump administration,World Bank

Ivanka Trump will help manage the Trump administration’s selection of a US candidate for the position of World Bank Group president, a White House official said on Monday.(Bloomberg)

Ivanka Trump will help manage the Trump administration’s selection of a US candidate for the position of World Bank Group president, a White House official said on Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the process is not public, dismissed a report in the Financial Times that floated Ivanka’s name as a possible candidate and was repeated by several other media outlets over the weekend.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney “have asked Ivanka Trump to help manage the US nomination process as she’s worked closely with the World Bank’s leadership for the past two years,” the official said.

“Reports that she is under consideration are false.”

AUS Treasury spokeswoman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ivanka Trump has worked with the World Bank and departing President Jim Yong Kim over the past two years, jointly launching a $1.6 billion women’s entrepreneurship fund with 13 other donor countries to raise capital for female entrepreneurs in developing countries.

The United States, which has a controlling voting interest in the World Bank, has traditionally chosen the institution’s leader since it began operations in 1946.

Kim announced his surprise Feb. 1 departure last week to join private equity fund Global Infrastructure Partners, more than three years before his term ends in 2022, amid differences with the Trump administration over climate change and the need for more development resources..

The World Bank has said its executive board will begin accepting nominations starting on Feb. 7. It said candidates should be committed to implementing the bank’s 2030 development objectives and reforms under the 2018 capital plan.

Candidates should have a proven leadership track record, with experience managing “large organizations with international exposure,” diplomatic and communication skill and “a firm commitment to and appreciation for multilateral cooperation,” the World Bank said.

Any nominee needs executive board approval and alternative candidates put forth by other countries are seen as likely to emerge, as they did in 2012, when Kim’s nomination was unsuccessfully challenged by candidates from Nigeria and Colombia.

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Trump says he is not looking to declare a national emergency ‘right now’ for border wall, urges Democrats to vote again on funding

By Emmanuel Justices

President Trump on Friday threw cold water on the idea of immediately declaring a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing days of signals that he might soon declare the emergency amid a protracted standoff with Democrats over a partial shutdown of the federal government. 

“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he said Friday afternoon, surrounded by law enforcement officials at a White House roundtable. “I’m not going to do it so fast.”

The president has defiantly said for days he might declare a national emergency to expedite construction of the wall — and his administration has asked agencies to begin preparations. 

But he has gotten sharp pushback, even from Republicans, at the notion of declaring such an emergency. His lawyers have privately warned that he could be on shaky footing with such a move, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history.

The Democratic-led House held its final votes of the week Friday, including on a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens. The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, now goes to Trump for his signature.On 20th day of shutdown, Hoyer blames Trump

The House also passed another bill that would reopen more shuttered government departments — but it was already declared dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump.

Democracy Dies in Darkness

Furloughed employees rally against shutdown: ‘Stop playing politics with our lives’Furloughed federal employees and supporters protested the ongoing government shutdown, urging President Trump and Congress to open the government. (Video: Joyce Koh /Photo: Michael Williamson/The Washington Post)By John Wagner ,Erica Werner andJosh DawseyJanuary 11 at 3:16 PM

President Trump on Friday threw cold water on the idea of immediately declaring a national emergency to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border, reversing days of signals that he might soon declare the emergency amid a protracted standoff with Democrats over a partial shutdown of the federal government. 

“What we’re not looking to do right now is national emergency,” he said Friday afternoon, surrounded by law enforcement officials at a White House roundtable. “I’m not going to do it so fast.”

The president has defiantly said for days he might declare a national emergency to expedite construction of the wall — and his administration has asked agencies to begin preparations. 

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But he has gotten sharp pushback, even from Republicans, at the notion of declaring such an emergency. His lawyers have privately warned that he could be on shaky footing with such a move, according to people familiar with the discussions.

The House broke for the weekend Friday, all but ensuring that the partial government shutdown would become the longest in U.S. history.

The Democratic-led House held its final votes of the week Friday, including on a measure to ensure that federal workers who are furloughed receive back pay once the government reopens. The bill, which passed the Senate on Thursday, now goes to Trump for his signature.On 20th day of shutdown, Hoyer blames Trump

House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) said Jan. 11, “One person is responsible for shutting down government: Donald Trump.” (C-Span)

The House also passed another bill that would reopen more shuttered government departments — but it was already declared dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Senate because of a veto threat from Trump.

About 800,000 workers missed a paycheck Friday as the impasse between Trump and Democrats stretched into its 21st day. Without a dramatic turn of events, the shutdown would become one for the record books at midnight.

[Trump administration lays groundwork to declare national emergency to build wall]

As of early Friday afternoon, there were no signs of serious negotiations underway, and leaders of both chambers announced no plans to meet before Monday.

Meanwhile, speculation continued to swirl around whether Trump would declare a national emergency and direct the military to build the wall without congressional consent.

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who talks frequently with Trump, said that he expected the president to take that step in a matter of “days, not weeks” but that it was unclear whether doing so would lead to a full reopening of government.

Trump took to Twitter to tout his high-profile trip to the border Thursday, writing, “I just got back and it is a far worse situation than almost anyone would understand, an invasion!”

“The Democrats, Cryin’ Chuck and Nancy don’t know how bad and dangerous it is for our ENTIRE COUNTRY,” Trump wrote, referencing Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Trump asserted that without a wall — or steel barrier — “our Country cannot be safe.”

Pelosi said Friday that Democrats have not felt any political pressure to give in to Trump’s wall demands.

“No, except to stay firm,” she said.

She dismissed Trump’s negotiating style as one destined to fail. “His version of a negotiation is, ‘Do everything I want,’ ” she said.

Other Democrats pushed back in television appearances and speeches on the floor.

“One person is responsible for shutting down government: Donald Trump,” House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) told his colleagues. He argued that Democrats are open to tightening border security but are not going to “waste money” on what he characterized as an antiquated approach advocated by Trump.

Hoyer referred to comments last month by Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) in which he described Trump’s call for a border wall as a “metaphor.”

“If it is a metaphor for security, we’re in,” Hoyer said.

House Republicans accused Democrats of going through the motions Friday by passing the latest of four bills to reopen parts of the government unrelated to border security. The bill taken up Friday would reopen the Interior Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Service and several other agencies.

The bill passed 240 to 179, with 10 Republicans joining all Democrats in the chamber supporting it.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) called the exercise “a charade” because Senate leaders have already indicated they do not plan to vote on the bill and Trump has said he would not sign it.

“If anybody thinks this is accomplishing anything, it’s not,” Cole said.

“We’ve wasted the week because our friends can’t sit down and split the difference,” he added. “I don’t think anyone looks particularly good in this. . . . This will end another sad week in this chamber.”

The bill to ensure workers receive back pay passed 411 to 7. All those who opposed it were Republicans.

As part of an effort to continue to build a public case for the wall, Vice President Pence spoke Friday with Customs and Border Protection employees, assuring them, “We’re going to build that wall.”

“Let me assure you that in a challenging time . . . I’m here to say we are with you and we are going to continue to stand with you until you have the resources and reforms to do your jobs, Pence said.

The agency is among those with employees working without pay because of the shutdown.

Later Friday afternoon, Trump was scheduled to hold what was billed as a “roundtable discussion on border security” at the White House with state, local and community leaders.

Amid the stalemate, the White House has been laying the groundwork for a declaration of a national emergency to build Trump’s border wall.

The administration is eyeing unused money in the Army Corps of Engineers budget, specifically a disaster-spending bill passed by Congress last year that includes $13.9 billion allocated but not spent for civil works projects, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

The list includes dozens of flood-control projects in areas affected by recent natural disasters, including the Texas coastline inundated by Hurricane Harvey and parts of Puerto Rico battered by Hurricane Maria. The military construction budget is also being looked at as a potential source for unspent funds, with billions more potentially available there.

The notion of declaring a national emergency to bypass Congress has divided Republicans, some of whom see it as an encroachment on congressional authority.

“I think the president should not do it,” Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters Friday. “I think as a member of Congress I ought to be very selfish about the constitutional powers that we have to appropriate money. I think it might be a bad precedent.”

Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark R. Warner, Democrats from Virginia, both objected to the use of military funding for the wall while speaking with reporters Friday after a meeting in Alexandria with furloughed workers.

Kaine, who sits on the Armed Services Committee and is the only U.S. senator with a child on active duty, said military construction dollars are used for things such as removing lead from the water supply in troops’ housing and hardening overseas bases to better resist a terrorist attack.

“There is a lot of emergency expenditures that are already in the queue,” he said. “I’d like the ability to compare, well what’s more of an emergency right now.”

Warner said the courts would have to decide if money could be spent on the wall after Congress had already appropriated it for other uses.

“Let’s face it,” Warner said. “This is an attempt to basically go around the law, to go around the rules. That’s why you even see pushback from some in his own party.”

On Friday, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló also strongly objected to the idea of diverting money intended for hurricane mitigation.

“No wall should be funded by the pain and suffering of citizens of the United States who have suffered a tragedy and loss through a natural disaster,” he said in a statement.

While the emergency declaration has been floated as way to end the standoff between Trump and congressional Democrats, Meadows said such a move by Trump would not necessarily end the partial shutdown.

“They’re two separate things, and I can tell you that everybody who thinks the national emergency declaration would actually end the shutdown, those two don’t necessarily go hand in hand,” he said. “They probably would, but they don’t necessarily go hand in hand.”

Pelosi told reporters that she expects the government to reopen if Trump declares a national emergency.

“Well, I think that would be his purpose,” she said. “Well, I guess his purpose is to build a wall. But remember this about the wall: This isn’t a wall between Mexico and the United States.”

She said Trump is instead trying to distract from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into Russia’s election interference and other challenges his administration is facing.

“This is a wall between his failures of his administration, problems that he might have with the Mueller [investigation], people leaving his Cabinet in dismay and disgrace,” Pelosi said. “That’s the wall he’s trying to build between public opinion and what is going on. And so this is his big diversion, and he’s a master of diversion.”

Mike DeBonis, Paul Kane and Jenna Portnoy contributed to this report.

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Five questions about Trump's border wall

US shutdown: What border politicians think of Trump’s wall

By Emmanuel Justice

Politicians in Washington have had a lot to say about the merits or otherwise of a border wall thousands of miles away. But what do the lawmakers based there say?

There are nine members of the House of Representatives whose districts lie along the US-Mexico border.

It is perhaps not surprising that the eight Democrats oppose President Donald Trump’s signature campaign pledge.

But the one Republican congressman – whose district stretches for 820 miles (1,320km) along the border – is also hostile. Most of his party back the president.

These nine border politicians have intimate knowledge of the border and the issues arising from the movement of people – legal or otherwise – across it.

So what have they said?

Will Hurd, Texas Republican

“I think building a concrete structure sea to shining sea is the most expensive and least effective way to do border security,” said Will Hurd, a Republican congressman whose district has the longest border with Mexico.

Congressman Hurd’s 23rd Congressional District, which stretches from El Paso to Antonio, shares the largest border with Mexico of any member of Congress.

Mr Hurd, a former CIA agent who happens to be the only black Republican in the House of Representatives, has argued for a “smart border wall” which would be composed of sensors and other technology.

Will Hurd meets with constituents at the Fiesta San Antonio in 2017
Will Hurd meets with constituents at the Fiesta San Antonio in 2017

“A Smart Wall would use sensor, radar and surveillance technologies to detect and track incursions across our border so we can deploy efficiently our most important resource, the men and women of Border Patrol, to perform the most difficult task – interdiction,” he wrote in an op-ed in 2017 .

Mr Hurd, who broke rank with Republicans to vote on a Democratic-led bill to reopen government, said after Mr Trump’s speech on Tuesday: “If this is a crisis, the people that are dealing with this crisis should get paid.”

Federal workers who are deemed “essential” such as border patrol agents, have been forced to work without pay as the shutdown continues.

Vicente Gonzalez, Texas Democrat

“It’s a 4th Century solution to a 21st Century problem,” said Congressman Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes the border town of McAllen, which Trump plans to visit during the funding impasse.

“Nobody wants stronger border control than me,”he told CBS .

But he opposes adding to the existing border wall because he does not “think it brings real border security and it comes at a major cost to taxpayers”.

Henry Cuellar, Texas Democrat

Congressman Henry Cuellar, who represents Texas’ 8th congressional district, believes $4bn is needed to modernise ports of entry, not for a wall which he says would only delay migrants by “a few minutes or a few seconds”.

He adds that modern telecommunications for border agents, and funding to help Mexico secure it’s own southern border, would also be helpful.

Ann Kirkpatrick, Arizona Democrat

The new Arizona congresswoman took office in early January as the representative for Arizona’s 2nd District and has pledged not to vote for border wall funding.

“We don’t want a wall in southern Arizona. A third of our economy comes from Mexico. We want to build bridges not walls,” she told Arizona Public Media as she was sworn in.

Raúl Grijalva, Arizona Democrat

Mr Grijalva has been a vocal critic of Mr Trump’s proposal.

“Not a single cent should go to funding Trump’s monument to hate,” he tweeted after Mr Trump addressed the nation on primetime TV to argue that there is a “crisis” at the border.

“This is a terrible, terrible mistake that Trump is making,” he told CBS, calling it “a fantasy” and “not a solution”.

“It would be devastating to my district,” said Mr Grijalva, whose own father came emigrated from Mexico in the 1940s.

Trump v Democrats on the border wall and government shutdown
Trump v Democrats on the border wall and government shutdown

Veronica Escobar, Texas Democrat

In her first act as a newly elected member of Congress, Veronica Escobar of Texas’ 16th District chose to cast her vote for “Nancy ‘no wall’ Pelosi” – the Democratic House leader who has opposed budgeting for Mr Trump’s wall.

“Donald Trump is trying to portray border communities as these open, lawless areas where a wall will solve problems,” she said in a Twitter video for , a Democratic advocacy group.

Mrs Escobar, who represents the border city of El Paso, blamed Republicans for wrongly and “needless fear mongering about communities like mine”.

A border patrol agent stands guard
Walls and fences already cover many miles of the US border

Juan Vargas, California Democrat

Congressman Juan Vargas, who has represented California’s 51st District for the last five years, said there is no crisis where he lives along the border.

“I live along the border, about a little over 10 miles from the border. It’s San Diego. I mean, it’s basically paradise,” he told CNN. “The notion that we have a crisis there, security crisis, is absolute nonsense.”

“The reality is, yes, there are people sneaking into our country,” Mr Vargas said. “We can stop that if we have smart solutions, and that’s only going to be reliant on technology.”

Xochitl Torres Small, New Mexico Democrat

New Mexico’s newly elected Congresswoman Xochitl Torres Small visited the border earlier this week with other members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.

New Mexico Democrat Xochitl Torres Small.
Xochitl Torres Small

While visiting a Border Patrol station where a Guatemalan migrant child died on Christmas Eve, she called for first responders along remote and rural areas of the border to carry emergency medical equipment.

“The border is my home, and I am committed to fighting for and implementing policies which will help to make it #strong #smart and #fair,” she tweeted after the visit.

Filemon Vela Jr, Texas Democrat

Texas Congressman Filemon Vela Jr has said in the past that he agrees with President Trump on trying to tackle the Mexican drug cartels and deporting criminals.

But he is deeply opposed to the wall.

In a scathing open letter to candidate Trump in 2016 , he said: “Why any modern-thinking person would ever believe that building a wall along the border of a neighbouring country, which is both our ally and one of our largest trading partners, is frankly astounding and asinine.”

been an outspoken critic of Mr Trump’s immigration policies, and criticised his decision before the mid-term elections in November to deploy troops to the border, which he said “inspired white national vigilantes” to flood the region.

After US troops arrived in Brownsville, a city he represents, he condemned their defensive manoeuvres as “direct attacks on our border economy [which] provide no security value whatsoever”.

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    The school using giant book murals to encourage reading


    For many students, this week saw the end of the Christmas break and a return to school.

    However, one school in Illinois, US, has taken a novel and eye-catching approach to motivating its students in the new year.

    Students of Mundelein High returned to find six floor-to-ceiling book covers lining the corridor of the school’s English department.

    The vinyl prints, which wrap around sections of wall like the jackets of giant books, flank the doorways of three of the school’s English classrooms.

    The school explained in a post on Facebook that a “routine hallway has been transformed into a giant motivational tableau to encourage reading”.

    Photograph showing two murals in the corridor of Mundelein High School

    School spokesman Ron Girard told the BBC that the project was intended to “get students talking about the reading that they do”.

    “That usually occurs in classrooms but now the chatter among students even takes place in the hallways when they see images of books they have read.”

    The project has proven popular on social media, where it was greeted with cheers of “awesome”, “fantastic” and “amazing”.

    Ron describes the online reaction as “incredible”.

    The striking images also caught the attention of the author of one the featured books.

    Jason Reynolds who, along with Kiely Brendan, wrote “All American Boys” shared the mural with his Twitter followers.

    Screen grab from Jason Reynolds on Twitter

    The other books selected are: “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte; “Beartown” by Fredrik Backman; “Never Let Me Go” by Kazuo Ishiguro; “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard” by Leslea Newman; and “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall.

    The images of the large book covers also moved other teachers to share examples of similar projects designed to inspire students at their own schools.

    Nate Djupstrom, a teacher from Michigan, shared a photograph of lockers painted to look like the books of the Harry Potter series.

    School lockers painted to look like the spines of Harry Potter Books

    Nate also shared photos of lockers decorated like books from the Hunger Games trilogy and the Lord of the Rings.

    He wrote that his “students love them”.

    School lockers painted to look like the spines of Harry Potter Books

    Given the positive response to the project, Mundelein High hope to add more giant books to it’s collection soon.

    All photographs copyright as show.

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    Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn demands election to 'break deadlock'

    Brexit: Jeremy Corbyn demands election to ‘break deadlock’



    Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has stepped up calls for a general election “at the earliest opportunity” to “break the deadlock” over Brexit.

    In a speech, he said a new government would have a fresh mandate to negotiate a better withdrawal deal with the EU.

    He told Theresa May: “If you are so confident in your deal, call that election, and let the people decide.”

    The Conservatives said Labour did not have a plan for Brexit and were “playing politics”.

    Labour will vote against Theresa May’s withdrawal deal on Tuesday and if, as widely expected, it is defeated, they are expected to start moves to trigger a general election.

    Mr Corbyn said Labour would “table a motion of no confidence in the government at the moment we judge it to have the best chance of success”.

    He added: “Clearly, Labour does not have enough MPs in parliament to win a confidence vote on its own. So members across the House should vote with us to break the deadlock.”

    Some of Mr Corbyn’s Leave-supporting backbench MPs have been speaking to Theresa May about backing her deal if she can guarantee environmental standards and rights for workers.

    Others, on the anti-Brexit side of his party, are calling on him to get behind the campaign for a new EU referendum.

    Mr Corbyn has said his preferred option is to trigger a general election and, having won it, seek to delay Brexit in order to negotiate a better deal with Brussels, which he says would see the UK in a permanent customs union with the EU and with a close relationship with the single market.

    If Labour is not able to get a general election, Mr Corbyn said all options were “on the table, including the option of campaigning for a public vote”.

    In a speech to Labour activists at an electrical products manufacturer in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, Mr Corbyn said Theresa May would forfeit the right to govern if she cannot get her Brexit deal through the Commons.

    “A government that cannot get its business through the Commons is no government at all. It has lost its mandate so must go to the country to seek another.”

    Quick guide: What is a no-deal Brexit?

    A “no-deal” Brexit is where the UK would cut all ties with the European Union overnight.

    Theresa May’s government, and many others, believe this would be hugely damaging and want a more gradual withdrawal. But if Parliament can’t agree on that, and nothing else takes its place, the UK will leave without a deal.

    This would mean the UK would not have to obey EU rules. Instead, it would need to follow World Trade Organization terms on trade. Many businesses would see new taxes on imports, exports and services, which are likely to increase their operating costs. That means the prices of some goods in UK shops could go up.

    The UK would also lose the trade agreements it had with other countries as a member of the EU, all of which would need to be renegotiated alongside the new agreement with the EU itself.

    Manufacturers in the UK expect to face delays in components coming across the border.

    The UK would be free to set its own immigration controls. However some UK professionals working in the EU and UK expats could face uncertainty until their status was clarified. The European Commission has said that even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers won’t need a visa for short visits of up to 90 days.

    The border between Northern Ireland and the Irish republic would become an external frontier for the EU with customs and immigration controls, though how and where any checks would be made is not clear.

    Some Leave supporters think that leaving without a deal would be positive if the right preparations were made. They say criticism is scaremongering and any short term pain would be for long term gain.

    But critics – including both Brexit supporters and opponents – say that leaving without a deal would be a disaster for the UK: driving up food prices, leading to shortages of goods and gridlock on some roads in the South East resulting from extra border checks.

    Mr Corbyn vowed to heal the divide between Leave and Remain voters, saying the “real divide” in the UK was between the “many” who “do the work, create the wealth and pay taxes” and the “few” who “set the rules, reap the rewards and so often dodge taxes”.

    He said: “People across the country, whether they voted Leave or Remain, both know that the system isn’t working for them. Some see the European Union as a defence against insecurity and hostility. Others see the European Union as part of an establishment that plunged them into insecurity and hostility in the first place.

    “But it’s the failed system rigged against the many to protect the interests of the few that is the real cause of inequality and insecurity, whether in Tottenham or Mansfield.

    “And the real solution is to transform Britain to work in the interests of the vast majority, by challenging the entrenched power of a privileged elite.

    “That is how we can help to heal the referendum’s deep divisions.”

    The government has lost two Brexit votes in two days. The first defeat limits the government’s financial powers in the event of a no-deal departure. The second forces the PM to announce new plans within three days if her deal fails in the Commons.

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    China"s President Xi Jinping waving to children Mr Kim was greeted with a welcome ceremony at Beijing's Great Hall of the People

    Kim Jong-un leaves China with ‘backing for second Trump summit’


    After his surprise visit to China, North Korean leader Kim Jong-un left with backing for a possible second summit with US President Donald Trump, state media said.

    Mr Trump and Mr Kim first met last June, but progress over denuclearisation has since stalled.

    Chinese President Xi Jinping said he hoped the two leaders “meet each other halfway”, Xinhua news agency reported

    China is the North’s main ally and key trade partner.

    Mr Xi said China supported North Korea and the US “holding summits and achieving results, and supports relevant parties resolving their respective legitimate concerns through dialogue”.

    He also said China would be ready to play a “positive and constructive role” towards maintaining peace and achieving denuclearisation on the Korean peninsula, reported Xinhua.

    Mr Kim made what is believed to be his first official trip outside North Korea to China last year, even before meeting South Korea’s President Moon and Mr Trump. The recent visit is Mr Kim’s fourth to China in less than a year.

    A train believed to be carrying North Korean leader Kim Jong Un leaves Beijing Railway Station in Beijing, China, January 9, 2019, in this still image taken from Reuters TV footage.
    A train believed to be carrying the North Korean leader departs Beijing Railway Station on Wednesday

    During his three-day visit to China, Mr Kim and his wife Ri Sol-ju were welcomed by Mr Xi and his wife with a banquet and an art performance. He also visited a pharmaceutical plant specialising in Chinese medicine.

    The trip is believed to have taken place over Mr Kim’s 35th birthday.

    Mr Xi accepted an offer to visit North Korea, state media said. It is still unclear when this would take place.

    ‘Concern’ over denuclearisation

    Mr Kim had said in his annual new year’s speech in January that he remained committed to denuclearisation , but warned that he would change course if US sanctions remained.

    According to North Korean’s official KCNA agency China supported the North’s position.

    “Xi Jinping said that the legitimate issues raised by the DPRK are rightful demands and that he fully agrees that the DPRK’s reasonable interests should be justly resolved,” it said, using the official country name the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.

    It is not clear when or where a possible second Kim-Trump summit would take place, though South Korean president Moon Jae-in has said it will happen “soon”.

    Mr Moon, who has over the past year played mediator between North Korea and the US, said at a news conference on Thursday that Seoul would cooperate with the US in resolving the issue of sanctions on North Korea.

    Donald Trump (R) gestures as he meets with North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un (L)
    Mr Trump and Mr Kim met in Singapore last year

    There has been little progress made between the US and North Korea since the historic Singapore summit in June – the first ever meeting between a North Korean leader and a sitting US president.

    Both parties signed a pledge at the time to denuclearise the Korean peninsula, though it was never made clear what this would entail.

    Pyongyang wants Washington to lift the sanctions the United Nations imposes on the country because of its nuclear and missile programmes.

    North Korea argues that the US needs to match the steps it has taken towards denuclearisation, namely dismantling a nuclear testing site and a key missile engine facility.

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    Ashley Judd can still proceed with her claim that Harvey Weinstein tried to sabotage her career

    Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment claim against Harvey Weinstein dismissed


    Actress Ashley Judd’s sexual harassment lawsuit against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein has been dismissed by a Los Angeles federal court.

    Judge Philip Gutierrez ruled on Wednesday that Ms Judd’s allegations did not fall within the scope of the statute under which she had sued.

    But Ms Judd’s defamation claim, that Mr Weinstein had sabotaged her career, may still proceed, the judge said.

    Mr Weinstein denies all allegations of sexual harassment and intimidation.

    Ms Judd’s sexual harassment lawsuit was re-filed following a change in California state law after her initial claim was rejected by Judge Gutierrez last September.

    She alleges she rejected unwanted advances from him and he then tried to wreck her career.

    But in a statement late on Wednesday, Judge Gutierrez said the law that deals with sexual misconduct claims in professional relationships, which was revised to include directors and producers, could not be applied retrospectively to Ms Judd’s case.

    Mr Weinstein’s lawyer, Phyllis Kupferstein, welcomed the judge’s decision.

    “We have said from the beginning that this claim was unjustified, and we are pleased that the court saw it as we did” she said in a statement, adding: “We believe that we will ultimately prevail on her remaining claims.”

    However, Ms Judd’s claim that the Oscar-winning producer “blackballed” her after she refused his advances would still be heard, Judge Gutierrez said.

    That part of her lawsuit states that “Weinstein used his power in the entertainment industry to damage Ms Judd’s reputation and limit her ability to find work”.

    Ashley Judd: I was not frightened of Harvey Weinstein
    Ashley Judd: I was not frightened of Harvey Weinstein

    In 2017, Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson said he had been considering Ms Judd for a role in the 2002 film but that she was “blacklisted” following conversations with the Weinstein Company.

    He said that Mr Weinstein had warned him that the actress was a “nightmare” to work with.

    Mr Weinstein, however, said he had no role in Mr Jackson’s casting and denied trying to derail Ms Judd’s career.

    The producer still faces a separate, criminal case involving five allegations of sexual assault, including rape. His lawyers have argued that civil cases should not be heard until the criminal investigation is concluded.

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    Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer who pleaded guilty to crimes rela…

    Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer who pleaded guilty to crimes rela…

    By Emmanuel Justices

    Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former lawyer who pleaded guilty to crimes related to hush-money payments made to two women who claimed to have had an affair with Trump, has agreed to testify before the House Oversight Committee on Feb. 7. The development marks the major move by House Democrats to haul in a member of Trump’s team connected to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Cohen pleaded guilty and was sentenced in December to three years in prison on multiple charges. (📸: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

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