english news

California to enforce ‘gender neutral’ toy aisles in large stores


California has become the first US state to require large retailers to display toys and childcare items in gender-neutral ways. The new law, signed by Governor Gavin Newsom on Saturday, does not ban boys and girls sections in shops. But large stores must have also have a separate, gender-neutral section. These must display “a reasonable selection” of toys and childcare items, regardless of whether they’ve been marketed towards a particular sex. Companies will face a $250 (£184) fine for their first violation, and $500 (£368) penalties for others. The new law was passed by California’s state legislature last month, and will come into effect in 2024 now it has been signed by Governor Newsom. It will apply to retailers with 500 or more employees across their California stores. Clothing will be unaffected, but the law will affect toys and any “childcare items” intended to aid sleep, relaxation, feeding, teething or sucking.(BBC)…[+]

Crete shaken by 6.4-magnitude quake


Crete has been shaken by an earthquake with a magnitude of 6.4, according to the US Geological Survey (USGS), which placed the epicentre on the east of the Greek island. Some buildings were damaged, but there are so far no reports of casualties. Tremors were felt across several of the Dodecanese islands, the National Observatory of Athens says. Crete was hit last month by a 5.8-magnitude quake, which killed one and caused damage. The small church of Agios Nikolaos, in Sitia, was demolished by the latest tremor, local media report. The USGS placed the Crete quake at a depth of 10km (6 miles), which is fairly shallow and therefore liable to cause more damage. There have been several aftershocks since it struck at 09:24 GMT. Greece is hit from time to time by earthquakes as it lies on a network of geological faultlines.(BBC)…[+]

Covid Australia: Sydney celebrates end of 107-day lockdown


Australia’s largest city, Sydney, has emerged from Covid lockdown after almost four months, with locals celebrating a range of new freedoms. People queued for pubs and shops that opened at midnight on Monday. Many others have been enjoying anticipated reunions with relatives and friends. Household visits and travel had been banned beyond a 5km (3.1 mile) zone. Sydney exited lockdown after New South Wales state reached a 70% double-dose vaccination target for over-16s. Most restrictions have now been eased for fully vaccinated people. People can now share meals together at reopened cafes and restaurants, and visit gyms, libraries and pools. There were long queues for barbers and nail salons on Monday. The Lord Gladstone Hotel, an inner city pub, was doing a roaring lunch trade after months of limited trading and takeaway-only options.  “We’re stoked to be back, we’re having the best Monday in months, even before Covid,” Pat Blake, the pub’s licensee, told the BBC. “People are just ready to come back and sit down for a schooie [beer], see their friends, be somewhere there’s always music playing,” he said.(BBC)…[+]

Nigeria flogging video: Kwara state suspends school head


The head of a Nigerian Quranic school has been suspended after a video was widely shared showing students getting brutally punished. One clip shows four young men severely beating a young woman with stick-like objects as onlookers watch.  The father of the student told BBC Pidgin he approved the whippings. Male and female students had been accused of drinking alcohol, but they deny it, saying they consumed yoghurt at a birthday party. The video has been widely circulated online and sparked public outrage with many Nigerians condemning the beatings. The father of the female pupil said he saw footage of the alleged rule-breaking and vouched for the school in Kwara state, saying eight of his children had already graduated from the educational establishment. He said he was upset when he saw a clip of his daughter allegedly drinking alcohol. “I informed the school about the incident and I personally requested them to give her the appropriate punishment, and I insisted I should be present when they carried it out,” he said.(BBC)…[+]

Ethiopia’s Tigray crisis: Army launches offensive ‘on all fronts’ – rebels


The Ethiopian army has launched coordinated attacks on all fronts against forces from the northern Tigray region, the rebels say. They said the government was using artillery, tanks, jets and drones in an attempt to “reinvade” the region. A senior rebel source said Tigray forces were holding their ground. The Ethiopian government has not confirmed any fighting and a communications blackout makes independent verification impossible. A senior member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), Getachew Reda, said the government offensive launched last week was now in “full swing”.

Asked if a ground offensive had been launched, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said the government had a responsibility to protect its citizens across the country from acts of terrorism, the Reuters news agency reports. The TPLF was the governing party in Tigray until federal forces ousted them in November 2020 after they seized a military base.(BBC)…[+]

US Senate averts crisis by voting to extend debt ceiling


The US Senate has voted to temporarily raise the nation’s debt limit, avoiding a historic default that experts say would have devastated the economy. Senators agreed to increase the limit by $480bn (£352bn), which will cover the US until early December. The bill was approved in a 50-48 vote, following weeks of partisan fighting. The breakthrough came less than two weeks before the US was set to be unable to borrow money or pay off loans for the first time ever. The bill now has to be approved by the House of Representatives, and will then be sent to President Joe Biden to be signed into law. The vote in the upper house of Congress came after Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell offered his support for a short-term extension.(BBC)…[+]

Nigeria’s Tiwa Savage reveals sex tape blackmail


Nigerian Afrobeats star Tiwa Savage has revealed she is being blackmailed over a sex tape but says she won’t pay. She said the video was accidentally posted on Snapchat by her lover who deleted it after he realised his error but it had already been downloaded by a stalker. She said she cried when she first saw the video and feared the reaction. Savage, 41, is one of the world’s biggest Afrobeats stars and is signed to Universal Music Group. She is famous for songs such as Kele Kele and Eminado and was part of Don Jazzy’s Mavin Records in Nigeria, where she was known as First Lady. “I am not going to call it a sex tape but it’s a tape between me and the person I am dating right now,” she told radio host Angie Martinez of Power 105.1 in New York. She revealed that the incident happened last month and that the person tried extorting money from her but that she was not going to allow anyone to blackmail her “for doing something that is natural”.(BBC)

Air India: Struggling national carrier sold to Tata Sons

air india

India’s loss making national carrier Air India has been sold to the Tata group, the country’s largest conglomerate. he government has sold the airline to the company, which was the highest bidder at nearly $2.4bn (£1.7bn). The Tata group originally founded the airline in 1932 before it was taken over by the government in 1953. The government had for years been trying to sell the airline, which has racked up losses worth $9.5bn. But it recently sweetened the deal by making the terms of the debt less onerous for the buyer. It’s still unclear how much debt the Tata group will take on under the new terms. (BBC)…[+]

Nobel Literature Prize 2021: Abdulrazak Gurnah named winner


Tanzanian novelist Abdulrazak Gurnah has he was “surprised and humbled” to be awarded the 2021 Nobel Prize for Literature. The Swedish Academy praised Gurnah for for his “uncompromising and compassionate penetration of the effects of colonialism”. The prize is awarded by the Swedish Academy and is worth 10 million Swedish crowns ($1.14m / £840,000). Gurnah, 73, is the author of 10 novels, including Paradise and Desertion. He said how grateful he was to the academy, adding: “It’s just great – its just a big prize, and such a huge list of wonderful writers – I am still taking it in. “It was such a complete surprise that I really had to wait until I heard it announced before I could believe it.”(BBC)…[+]

Nazi trial: 100-year-old SS guard in court in Germany

ex nazi

Seventy-six years after the end of World War Two, a former concentration camp guard has gone on trial for assisting in the murder of 3,518 prisoners at Sachsenhausen near Berlin. Josef S is accused of complicity in the shooting of Soviet prisoners of war and the murder of others with Zyklon B gas. Time is running out for Nazi-era criminals to face justice and he is the oldest defendant so far to stand trial. It was only in recent years that lower-ranking Nazis were brought to trial. Ten years ago, the conviction of former SS guard John Demjanjuk set a precedent enabling prosecutors to charge people for aiding and abetting Nazi crimes in World War Two. Until then, direct participation in murder had to be proven. Identified as Josef S, because of German privacy laws, the defendant was led into a specially adapted sports hall at a prison in Brandenburg an der Havel, where the trial began amid strict security.(BBC)…[+]